For Virgil Hunter, Andre Ward Is a Dignified Man and Doesn’t Need To “Sell Out”

    Entertainment exists in many forms and it is something that is subjective to a particular person’s taste. For years the American public has gone through an abundance of change when it comes what it means to be an entertainer. From black and white silent movies to reality TV, the scope of American entertainment has taken some radical changes throughout the years. There have been some constants throughout that time however; one of those constants has been the influence of the urban variety.

    The African-American entertainer, more specifically the African-American culture, has had an impact on just about every form of entertainment there is whether you’re talking about comedians, sports, acting or music.

    In regards to sports, it seems that the more flamboyant the athlete the more he is publicized. When you’re talking about team sports like baseball, football, and basketball then it can go a long way to earning endorsement deals, but it could also hinder the perception of an athlete when it comes to an organization wanting to take a chance on someone who can be deemed a distraction.

    That is why being an entertainer in boxing is much more of a benefit as opposed to other sports because in boxing you are selling yourself rather than selling a single member of an entire sports franchise. If you’re a marketable fighter than it will go a long way into securing TV dates on big networks as well as making that fighter more susceptible to selling fights, which translates into championship bouts and successful PPV numbers.

    Many fighters in boxing have used a specific type of showmanship both inside and outside the ring, guys like Muhammad Ali, Roy Jones Jr., and Sugar Ray Robinson became infamous for their antics. The one thing that has to be said is that while the aforementioned fighters were flamboyant, they were also extremely talented. However, that isn’t to say that lesser talented fighters haven’t found ways of using the flamboyant bravado to talk their way into fights.

    There are plenty of cases in boxing where a guy got a fight he didn’t deserve based on his ability to sell a fight.

    I purposely left out Floyd Mayweather Jr. in my short list because he is the focus of the subject at hand. Recently, had on Virgil Hunter to talk about his fighter Andre Ward’s next fight against Chad Dawson on September 8th. In that conversation Hunter discussed Ward’s star potential and dwelled into the fact that Ward has not become a star outside of boxing yet.

    He went as far as to say that even with a win over Dawson Ward won’t get much credit to support his star-potential.

    “He’s not going to get credit for the [Dawson win], they’re going to come out with a lot of excuses [to discredit the win]. I’ve always said ‘Andre might not ever be a superstar, he’ll just beat superstars’ simple as that. Whoever you appoint superstars, that’s [Andre’s job] to beat them, but he might not ever be one. He hasn’t been given the credit up to this point, so we don’t look for it. All we know is we intend to come out victorious,” Hunter said.

    Hunter gave some reasoning to support his claims. He suggested that the African-American fighter goes unnoticed by the African-American fans. Hunter also said that the star success of African-American fighters is prompted by their willingness to portray a certain social expectation not akin to Andre Ward.

    “The minority representation in the boxing media is very small. I’m sorry to say that the African-American fans don’t support their fighters; the Latin people support their fighters. A nation like [Manny Pacquiao’s], they support him, we don’t get that kind of representation from our people (African-Americans). I love Floyd Mayweather, he’s a credited boxer and I love Adrien Broner, he’s a heck of a fighter, and they do things their way. When you have 95% of the media not of minority representation then they’re intrigued by stuff like that.

    “I grew up in the ghetto; I see Adrien Broners and Floyd Mayweathers every day at the corner liquor store, in the barbershop, at the park. We call it shucking and jiving, we call it struttin, we call it all of that and we see it every day so it’s no big thing to us. But when you grow up in another neighborhood and you don’t see that every day then you go into a [non-black] barbershop and its quiet in there and people are reading magazines and you don’t see that stuff so its intriguing to people,” Hunter said.

    The validity in his statements speaks volume. The fact is Hunter is absolutely correct and the notion that familiarity with that type of swagger dilutes its effects is spot on; I mean if you can go to the barbershop and experience the same kind of entertainment value provided by Floyd Mayweather on 24/7 then what makes Mayweather as appealing? On the other hand, if you don’t come from a region accustomed to that kind of bravado then the Mayweathers and Broners of the world are that much more interesting.

    Hunter didn’t just characterize the state of entertainment in boxing he gave a deep and meaningful explanation for why things are the way they are. He suggested that society has grown accustomed to this kind of entertainment from African-Americans; actually he made it clear that society almost expects it now and anything less would be a disappointment. If that is the case then it could certainly explain Andre Ward’s lack of mainstream attention and also explain why Adrien Broner has found success in his short TV career.

    “They expect African-Americans to act a fool and play that role because it’s been that role ever since, they’ve been entertained for years by us playing that role. All you have to do is look at [the TV shows] Martin, Good Times, Sanford & Son, all you got to do is look at [comedians like] Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer; they like us to play that role. Well guess what? We don’t play that role,” Hunter said.

    It’s a question with some interesting consequences. Should Ward portray a particular persona in order to secure his own popularity, or should he stay true to himself in hopes of capturing the attention of the commercial audience based solely on his in-ring ability and wholesomeness?

    Hunter offers a stern warning to those who captivate through that type of persona by reiterating the fact that even though an athlete can find success by doing those types of things, it doesn’t secure said athlete for a lifetime.

    “When you can’t catch that football no more, when you can’t knock anybody out, or when you can’t put that ball in the basket there is no more use for you now. There is a certain thing called dignity, I’m not knocking Floyd, I believe he has dignity, he has to do what he has to do and I respect that. I respect what Adrien Broner does, he has to do what he has to do, but the fact is it’s nothing new to me and I prefer to go another rout. It’s written on the wall that if Floyd or Adrien go broke they’ll find out the real deal then or when they can’t perform anymore.

    “We’re going to go about it a dignified way, Andre Ward is a real man and he’s not going to cut-up and play that role in front of people just to entertain them, I’m sorry that’s not going to happen.”

    Hunter is an extremely intelligent individual and his intelligence is not limited to in-ring knowledge either. His message is simple, while many athletes find success in the theatrics Andre Ward will refrain from acting out of character and keep a certain amount of integrity in that. That’s not to say that those who act flamboyant have no integrity, but instead it means that integrity is only accomplished by being true to one’s self. If somebody is naturally charismatic then integrity is achieved, but there is no dignity in being something you’re not.

    Ward-Dawson deserves all the hype and attention that is capable of a big time boxing match. The sad truth is neither fighter can accomplish the same kind of popularity in their fights like that of Floyd Mayweather Jr. I could actually see Adrien Broner becoming a superstar before Andre Ward, that’s assuming Ward reaches superstar status at all.

    The knock on Ward is that his fights possess too much technicality to warrant attention, but Floyd Mayweather doesn’t have the reputation of being a blood and guts warrior either. What separates the two fighters is the character each personifies. This proves Hunter’s point to a certain extent.

    It isn’t fair to Ward, but it isn’t up to me or anyone else. Ward can only control what he does in the ring and come September 8th he should remain focused on the task at hand, I believe he will. If the day comes where he finds himself to be a legitimate star outside of boxing as well as a PPV draw, then it will be because he is famous for what he does in the ring and not infamous for the things he does outside of it.



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